Sergio Getting Conservative and Thats Scary
Well, the jury is still pretty far out, but maybe ' just maybe ' Sergio Garcia is getting this through his noggin at the tender age of 21. Thats 50 years younger than Palmer. Of course, Arnie still hasnt conceded that sometimes less is more ' sometimes you win at sundown by being prudent when the sun is up. In other words, sometimes its best to be, ahem, conservative.
Master Sergio seems to be learning that characteristic, even though he should be finishing up his college years instead of winding up his second year as a professional. Tiger Woods was just getting through his first year as a pro when he was 21. Thats a risky game to play, admittedly. Tiger has progressed by light years in the ensuing four seasons. We dont know how well Sergio can progress in the next four years, but it is hardly fair to believe he can make up ground like Tiger can. No one else in history has.
But Sergio is on the right track. On the course, he may still do stupid things. He may get mad at a referee in Australia and make some totally asinine comments. When he was younger, just 19, he did this little shoe-kicking thing that got him in hot water in Britain. But on the course, he is showing signs of maturity, and that doesnt bode well for the gents who play the PGA Tour.
He just won his first tournament here in the States, and it was a doozy. The MasterCard Colonial didnt have Woods, but it had just about everyone else. It had Phil Mickelson, the worlds second-ranked player, and Mickelson was ahead by three shots in the last round.
Garcia had missed the cut in a couple of stateside outings, the Masters and Hilton Head, and he went back to his home in Spain to do a little thinking. He hung out a little with friends, he played the Spanish Open, and then he came back to play the Byron Nelson.
You had the feeling something was about to happen in the Nelson, where he went 63 and 64 the last two rounds. It did ' at the Colonial, where he had a 64 and 65, caught Mickelson, and in the process won by two strokes.
He has been listening a lot to 36-year-old Jesper Parnevik, himself a pretty free spirit in days past. And Garcia mentioned his friendship with Peter Jacobsen, who is now an ancient geezer 47 years old. Those two older gentlemen must have had for him some pretty good advice. And Master Sergio, bright kid that he seems to be, must have taken it.
In the final round, third hole, hes behind by five shots. Hes got 165 to the pin. A young man would hit whatever would get him to the hole. A wise old bird might think differently. Listen to Garcia:
Im between 9-iron and wedge. I cant hit 9-iron because its going to be too difficult from this rough to get it up-and-down. So I was just trying to play conservatively, knowing that I was putting well. If I didnt hit it well, if I didnt hit it to eight or 10 feet, if I hit it to 20 or 25 feet, I was still going to be able to make the putt.
I did that, hit the wedge to 25 feet ' and then I made the putt.
And, theres more.
I did the same thing on 8 ' I was between a 5 and 6, and the right club to hit was probably a 5. But I was putting the back so much in play that I decided to hit it 15-to-20 feet short and try to make the putt. I did.
On 10, he didnt feel confident on the drive. A year ago, he would have tried to gas it anyway and probably hit it in the rough. This time, he purposely aimed a little further left where he had more room. On 12, he lacked a little confidence again and hit it further right. On 13, he watched carefully while Glen Day hit his putt, then Sergio played just a hair more break. It went in for birdie.
By the time it was over, they tallied up his strokes and he was two better than Mickelson. He picked his times to be aggressive ' and the times to lay back. And he made plenty of birdies when he was laying back.
I played really well, but I played smart, too, he said. Thats what you learn when youre around here.
Sergio raised a few eyebrows with his play the last day. Hes learning this game, indeed. Tiger would be proud. So would Parnevik and Jacobsen. Arnie would have been proud of the results. The kid ' kid? ' had won.
Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59
Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.
While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.
He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.
"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."
Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.
"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."
Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot
When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.
Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.
"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"
The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.
Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.
"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."
DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.
Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.
"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."
Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.
Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.
"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."
Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.
"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."
LPGA lists April date for new LA event
The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.
When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.
The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.
The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.